I met the imam though the usual string of serendipitous connections. Afterparty backer, college friend and Amsterdam host Forrest Wright introduced me to his sister Leslie who introduced me to her friend and Afghanistan workshop facilitator Shaira, who introduced me to Fawad, who just happens to go to school with the imam’s son.
I visited mosques in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah on the Arabian peninsula, and sought out English-speaking mullahs in Afghanistan. I was in the Netlinks office with CEO Farshid and chief of operations Javid when I mentioned that Fawad got me an appointment at a local mosque. Farshid insisted I was wasting my time, that whoever I talked to would be uneducated and talk outdated nonsense and that who I should really see was Imam X (unnamed by mutual agreement until he sees the copy). Javid agreed, singing the praises of this esteemed fellow. When I called Fawad, I sheepishly suggested that, gee, after we see his imam, could we try to get an appointment with this other fellow? Fawad answered, that’s exactly the guy we’re going to see.
Part One of our discussion, ranging from the precepts of Islam to American support of Zionism can be seen here:
After leading late afternoon prayers, the imam comes back in the meeting room. I cut to the chase, “Two final questions.”
He interrupts. He has more to say about American politics and says:
In President Obama’s first presidential speech in Cairo, he pointed out some important things and he said that US policy was wrong toward Islamic countries and promised changes. I still remember that speech. i had so much hope when I heard that Preisdent Obama won the election and he got to the White House, but unfortunately, he failed. He didn’t fulfill his promises.
I wish and I hope that the US will stop solving problems from a military basis. This is not the solution. I wish that America comes to discuss with us in a diplomatic way, that it invites these radical groups to the stun is not about solution and fighting way, it is to discuss to sit together to solve it in a political way, not by assassinating or creating bloodshed.
Islamic countries are not only countries, they are a union of all Muslims and the world and America must change its policy toward Islamic countries because what they are doing is totally wrong.
He asks me, Why did Obama not fulfill his promises?
First, I am not an apologist for Obama or for the American government. Obama withdrew troops from Iraq, as promised. He has now withdrawn almost all troops from Afghanistan. He chose not to invade Syria. He helped rebels in Libya but did not occupy or invade the country. He resisted political pressure to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. So there has been some reconsideration of attitudes toward Muslim countries.
We must have a new look and resolution to today’s problems. That was President Bush’s fault, that he made a grave mistake in Iraq. We and Obama must have a new look and we have to have a new approach for these problems. It is not all about fighting battles.
A few final questions. Should the US, once al Qaeda was pushed out and the Taliban removed from power, should the US have left Afghanistan? Were there positive affects from 13 years of the US presence here? And should the US now leave Afghanistan completely?
As far as al Qaeda, America will never be able to defeat al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is an international reaction to policies, and the only way to defeat or destroy al Qaeda is not the way of bullets. It depends on the Afghan people. Now, I ask you, America came here with the aim of destroying terrorism and the Taliban, and in one day they bombed and pushed out the Taliban. They came for security. Can you say that America was successful in its aim?
Then what is the benefit of America to stay here when the US cannot defeat terrorism? (He laughs, warmly). So why stay? That will not solve problems. That will create more problems.
One final question, as you are Afghanistan’s most revered Islamic scholar, what message do you want to give to the American people?
My message is it’s not about Americans or Spanish or Afghans, we are a universal family, we are one, so as a brother, my message to the American people is to do not be the victim of wrong policies of the US government, and the people of America should not be the victim of the wrong policies of Israel. For Israeli and Zionists, wrong ideas and policies, American youth mustn’t be killed in war in Afghanistan. All these things go back to Israeli and Israeli policies. Not Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria.”
We take a picture together, which he asks me not to publish, and we walk together to the door. He embraces me and says, “You must become a Muslim, and move to Afghanistan.” I answer, “If I do that, then you have to find me a nice Afghan girl to marry.” He laughs and takes his leave. His son, who translated our discussion, invites me to stay and hang out at the mosque for the evening, but I have another interview at the City Center. He tells me that I am welcome back to the mosque any time, and I quite believe him.